Friday, August 24, 2007

The Mystery of the Compulsive Liar

I've been the curious observer for some months now of a woman who is a compulsive liar. I'm absolutely certain she knows I've got her number as far as the lying is concerned. Yet like all compulsive liars, she appears to be incapable of preventing more fiction from tumbling through her lips.

Today she was at it again. And she really tried hard to make it convincing. She enlisted the aid of someone she normally doesn't have to deal with too much on a daily basis. That really piqued my interest. New blood, thought the liar. Desperation, thought the people who are used to her.

I decided to share a few nuggets of wisdom about the art of lying:

"A pathological liar is usually defined as someone who lies incessantly to get their way and does so with little concern for others. Pathological lying is often viewed as a coping mechanism developed in early childhood and it is often associated with some other type of mental health disorder.

A compulsive liar is defined as someone who lies out of habit. Lying is their normal and reflexive way of responding to questions. Compulsive liars bend the truth about everything, large and small. For a compulsive liar, telling the truth is very awkward and uncomfortable while lying feels right. Compulsive lying is usually thought to develop in early childhood, due to being placed in an environment where lying was necessary." - The Truth About Deception

The roots of lying often begin in an alcoholic household. Adult Children of Alcoholics "lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth. Lying is basic to the family system affected by alcohol. It masquerades in part as an overt denial of unpleasant realities, cover-ups, broken promises and inconsistencies. Lying as the norm in your house became part of what you knew and what could be useful to you. At times, it made life much more comfortable. If you lied about getting your work done, you could get away with being lazy for a while. It seemed to make life simpler for everybody." - Adult Child Characteristics

"The name of the game is denial. The 'elephant in the living room' syndrome is the perceptual lynchpin of all children of alcoholics. Mom calls the office to say that Dad is seriously ill; meanwhile, he’s just hungover. Excuses were given to friends, teachers, children, and anyone else involved in the family’s life as to why something could or could not happen, why they could or could not go somewhere, or why they had black eyes or broken ribs or were in the hospital and at some point, the child begins to believe it.

He learns he can avert unpleasantness, deny painful realities, and generally make life easier if he lies. He learns that the broken promises are really just lies, that the excuses are really just lies, that his happy family life is no more than a myth, and that there are some real benefits to be derived from lying. It is easier to lie and avoid the embarrassment of taking your friends home to a drunken father on the living room floor. He learns to lie to meet his needs." - This is a War-ADDICTION

"There has been recent data from a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. The team from the University of Southern California studied 49 people and found those known to be pathological liars had up to 26% more white matter than others with antisocial personality disorder who were not liars and healthy volunteers. In general, white matter transmits information and grey matter processes it. Having more white matter in the prefrontal cortex may aid lying." - Richard Petty MD

"The Top 10 Compulsive Behaviour Symptoms

The following ten behaviors are probably the most common of what could be categorized with "Obsessive-Compulsive" disorders.

1 - 'Checking' behaviors
2 - Needing to buy something each time you go shopping
3 - Gambling for recreation, but continually losing and going into debt
4 - Susbstance abuse/addiction
5 - All work and no play
6 - Compulsive relationship behavior/ you 'must' be with another person/ stalking
7 - Compulsive lying
8 - Compulsive eating
9 - Sexual compulsions
10 - Compulsive exercising"
- Coachville


Akelamalu said...

To be a convincing liar one has to have an excellent memory!

Annie Mac said...

Interesting post Julia. Never realized the connection between lying and alcoholic families.

Dale said...

Are you sure you're telling the truth about all this?

Camille Alexa said...

What's 'checking' behaviour? Like going back to see if the door's locked or the stove's off?

julia said...

Yes, Camille, but I don't think it's considered a problem if you have a habit of going back once to check. (That's what I tell myself, anyway...) Compulsive checking would be if you ritually turned the taps off 25 times before being able to leave the bathroom.

Dewey said...

Fascinating. In my misguided youth I was briefly married to a pathological liar, who perfectly fits your definition. He did come from a family of alcoholics, and he was a stalker. But I don't think everyone coming from an alcoholic family develops these behaviors. Anyway, as a result of that disaster of a relationship, I have big issues with lying and can't tolerate it at all. If someone lies to me once, that's it, they've lost my trust.

The compulsive lying thing I notice a lot in teens. They do that bragging lying thing. They pretend to have had sex or they exaggerate their video game skill or whatever. I like to think most of them outgrow it, but maybe they only become more skillful so that it's less obvious when adults lie? Not sure.

Amy Ruttan said...

I have checking behaviour. I am obsessed about the doors being locked. It's crazy. Of course I don't lie cause my memory sucks. So if I had to have a weird compulsion I'll keep checking the doors.


Anonymous said...

I do not lie to get something I want, nor do I lie out of habit, I lie as a matter of taste. Simple as that. I like pasta, Chinese food and I like to lie.

Sans Pantaloons said...

If compulsive lying is seen as a disorder, would compulsive truth-telling also qualify if it was equally destructive?

julia said...

Sans, that's a good one! Actually, compulsive truth telling would definitely be a problem when it walks hand in hand with zero diplomatic skills.

Rebecca said...

wow - I started your post thinking I'd really dislike your pathological liar acquaintance - now I just feel sorry for her.

And I check (somewhat obsessively) that I've turned the stove off and that the woodfire door is shut properly. I can sometimes do this two or three times a night as I get ready for bed......

Kelly said...

I used to work with a pathalogical liar. We eventually sent her packing but she managed to irritate and alienate a lot of people before she went. The woman was absolutely toxic.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the link to ThisIsAWar addiction article the most, great article and great post.

The mysteries of the mind... never ending.

Anonymous said...

yep, my ex is an alcohohlic and he lies like a rug. he also disappears and makes up the most ridiculous excuses ever. so irritating. the lies are so outrageous they are laughable if he thinks they are even a tad believable.

bency said...

A compulsive liar also want to be perfect in everything, so to perfection in the eyes of others, a person may begin to lie.

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Anonymous said...

I need your help out there my boyfriend and I have been together for 2 yrs now we moved in Jan 2011 everyday is such a struggle for me I've caught him in so many lies I don't even know what to do everytime I catch him he says that's it we re over get out easier said than done I thought I met my prince my life to share w my 2 daughters that love him also our pets we also have together our house well his I do everything for him we both have lost r parents and always look to each other for support while yes I was married before I said I finally met my prince well I have caught him in about10 lies not little ones either and he clearly lied and always turns it around on me u don't trust me I lied bc I had too he has such a sickness its very sad he needs help what do I do?

Anonymous said...

To anonymous from 8/6/11. I've lived with a liar for 21 years. My advice is to run like hell because that is what you are in for. I don't believe in divorce. There can be no real relationship without trust.Your entire married life will be one big lie and you won't even know how to separate it out-the real from the lies. RUN.

Anonymous said...

I thought your blog/post lacked any hint of compassion or actual knowledge.

Lying is often a skill a child learns to develop in order to survive. When that skill stands in the way of the child learning positive and useful life skills, lying becomes much more than a habit, it becomes a way of life.

Old saying, "walk a mile in their shoes".

Anonymous said...

I am an 18 year old male and I am a compulsive liar. I have recently started to accept that fact after living in denial for countless years and i'm now starting on a path to make amends and take control of my life. most of what you say i can relate to, and even though my father is a recovering alcoholic he sobered up well before i was even born, that being said his father was a bad alcoholic and my father is a compulsive liar as well though he would never admit it. I believe I have developed my problems of pathological lying because of him. I looked up to him and I believe I started lying because its what he always did and things always seemed to work out for him. It was only when watching him plummet down a self-destructive path and facing his betrayal that i was finally able to take control and work on regaining my sanity. However I do not believe having a good memory has any effect on how good of a liar one is. In my case I can recall vivid memories that I can describe to the letter but when arguing to someone that what i remember is true they can tell me a completely different version of my memory but they would have undeniable that what I remember isn't what happened at all even though I know its how it happened. I guess what i'm trying to say is that the key to being a good liar is not to lie at all, to believe that what you say IS the truth because if you believe what it is you are saying then it isn't lying whether the statement is a false one or not. Its actually kind of sad, as i sit and recall my life im sometimes not really sure whats reality or what is just construct of my own self-conscious created simply to get out of trouble or impress somebody or for whatever reason it is that i would lie in the first place.

Anonymous said...

It is the strangest behavior to me. i have/ha a boyfriend thatlied about everything. he would even make up stories about where he was for the weekend without my asking. of course he had never been there in his life. he lied about where he went to college, what his major was, jobs he had, whom he was with, family vacations...basically at lest half of what he told me was a blatant fantasy. not even to cover his tracks or get something,he just lied to lie. so i never if his statement i love you ws tue or if he'd evenm show up for an appointment. had to cut the relatonship because it started getting so irritating and then i began laughing at him, and than i began to see him as a Loser that was it.people who compulsively lie and are adults, need to get help!